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For shrinking Mississippi River towns, frequent floods worsen fortunes

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For shrinking Mississippi River towns, frequent floods worsen fortunes


Homes outside the protected area got swamped, though. Much of the flooding was from Bear Creek as the Mississippi backed up into it.

Over the years, silt from the river has worked its way into the creek, clogging storm drains and worsening flash flooding, Mayor Barry Louderman said.

Louderman estimated at least a half-dozen companies that employed a combined 300 to 400 people “are just gone, were never replaced,” due to persistent flooding. First Street’s models show Hannibal would have likely grown over the last two decades if not for flooding.

Steve Dungan has lived on Ely Street near Bear Creek all of his 54 years. As a child, he fished from the porch when the creek rose.

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One summer night in 1993, Dungan was at a hospital in nearby Quincy, Illinois, where his wife was about to give birth to their daughter. He got a call that the water was coming up fast, and relatives and friends were scurrying to salvage what they could from his home by boat.

“We lost the waterbed, stove, refrigerator — stuff they couldn’t pack out,” he said.

With family anchoring him to the area, he chose to stay.

Ray Allen, another longtime Ely Street resident who also operated an auto repair and welding shop there, did not. He recalled being awakened by a noise during that 1993 flooding.

“Jumped up out of bed and was standing in water knee-deep beside the bed,” Allen, now 80, recalled. “That’s a rude awakening, I’ll tell you that.”

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The government bought out nearly all of the homes on Ely Street and in many other neighborhoods vulnerable to Bear Creek. People scattered. Some, like Allen and his wife of 63 years, Rachel, left town, though they moved back about 12 years ago and now live high on a hill.

He misses his old friends and neighbors on Ely Street.

“All of the people that were good friends down there kind of got busted apart,” he said.

West Alton is a two-hour drive downriver from Hannibal. In 1993, Sugar Vanburen watched as most of her mobile home floated down the river. Only what was bolted down remained — the floor, a toilet and furnace.

Her sister left, but not Sugar. It’s where she grew up. She likes the quiet community. Her grandchildren go to a good school. Residents learn how to empty mud from the basement and get neighbors to help clean up.

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After the 1993 flood, the Federal Emergency Management Agency offered buyouts to some facing severe flood risk. Recently, letters for a new round of voluntary buyouts went out.

Sugar threw hers away. But Robert Myers, St. Charles County’s planning and zoning division director, said the goal is to buy out as many as 100 homes across the county.

Mayor Richter recalls the West Alton of decades ago: three churches, an ice cream shop, four taverns where people hung out.

“Now we don’t have any churches. We have one tavern that’s open and it just got reopened not too long ago,” he said. “A lot of that community stuff is gone.”

Tom Silk lives next to a vacant lot that was once home to the church he attended and where he married.

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Silk likes the town. It’s rural, peaceful. But it takes work to stay. His front door still bears the water stain right at the handle marking the 2019 flood — second-highest on record.

That year, he packed up a U-Haul and left for about two months. It took a year and a half to repair his house — he did the work after finishing shifts loading trucks at a FedEx warehouse — but he wanted to stay.

“It’s quiet, it is the country life, but … you are still by the city if you need to do anything or go anywhere,” he said.

Richter said flooding is so frequent that he probably wouldn’t live in town if he didn’t grow up locally, farm and have strong community connections. The town has organized July 4 celebrations and a flea market family fun day in the fall. People come back. But there’s a sense of loss.

Vanburen misses neighbors who moved away.

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“Everybody’s gone,” she said. “This is a ghost town.”

Cairo, Illinois, is surrounded by a levee at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. It’s endured a lot.

First rising as a hub for steamboats in the 19th century, Cairo peaked around 1920 with about 15,000 people, including a sizeable Black population. It had attractive retail shops, several rail lines and a healthy manufacturing sector. It was also strictly segregated, and protests in the 1960s met violence that spiraled for years. The city has hemorrhaged people during a downward economic trend that’s never stopped, according to local historian Klinkenberg.

Its population today is about 10% of peak. Retail and manufacturing are gone. For a long time, it didn’t have a grocery store. Most of the place is abandoned, with brick buildings cracked by growing trees.

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Mississippi

Mississippi couple charged in death of 5-month-old

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Mississippi couple charged in death of 5-month-old


BILOXI, Miss. (WJTV) – A Biloxi couple has been arrested in connection to the death of their five-month-old child.

Biloxi police said they responded to Merit Health Biloxi just before 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 13. When officers arrived at the location, staff members told them that 20-year-old Summer Rose Hill and 21-year-old Takavian Keivon Gibbs arrived at the emergency room with their deceased five-month-old.

During the initial examination, police said the medical staff discovered multiple injuries to the child consistent with abuse.

Hill and Jones were both arrested and charged with child abuse. They each received a $500,000 bond. Police said Hill and Jones will be booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Center.

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The death investigation is ongoing, and police said there could be additional charges.

Anyone with information about the incident can contact the Biloxi Police Department at 228-435-6112 or 228-392-0641.



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Global warming’s impact on Mississippi

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Global warming’s impact on Mississippi


JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Global warming is often regarded as a remote, long-term problem, but extensive research shows its impact currently affects the Magnolia State.

Mississippi was an outlier nationally for lower average temperatures over the last century, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, the state’s diverse coastal and inland ecosystems still face a serious threat from global warming. The EPA asserts that the state has become drier, annual rainfall has increased and the sea level is rising about one inch every seven years. Additionally, the agency projects that the days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit yearly will potentially quadruple by 2086.

Though some crops like soybeans and cotton benefit from higher temperatures and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, others like corn will likely have smaller yields. Higher temperatures are also likely to reduce livestock productivity because heat stress disrupts an animal’s metabolism.

Timber is the state’s third largest commodity, according to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. Forestry accounts for 4% of all of the state’s jobs. Warmer and drier conditions could change the makeup of Mississippi’s forests and increase the frequency of wildfires, hurting the state’s lucrative commercial timber industry.

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Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that hurricanes and other major storms have increased in intensity and duration by about 50 percent since the 1970s. Rising sea levels leave beachfront development more vulnerable to storm surges and erosion. By 2100, the EPA estimates that the sea level along some South Mississippi beaches will rise by 15 inches.

Many of the negative effects of climate change cannot be eliminated but can be reduced. Below are things you can implement to reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs
    • The average household can save more than $200 yearly using LED bulbs. 
  • Lower the water heater temperature
    • Adjusting the temperature from 140 to 120 degrees can reduce the risk of scalding and build-up in your pipes, potentially saving consumers hundreds of dollars on energy costs. 
  • Get smart with thermostat use
    • People can save as much as 10% on heating by adjusting their temperature seven to 10 degrees from its normal setting for 8 hours a day. 
  • Reverse the ceiling fan in the summer
    • Changing the fan direction could save consumers up to 15% on their winter energy bills and up to 30% on their summer energy bills.
  • Weatherstrip around windows and doors
    • Weatherstripping around moveable joints reduces air leaks and helps homeowners stay more comfortable year-round. 
  • Seal around windows with caulk
    • Certain types of air sealing are best done by a professional, but air sealing around windows or doors with a tube of caulk is an effective, inexpensive DIY energy project.



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La Niña watch is officially on: When will Mississippi feel its impact?

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La Niña watch is officially on: When will Mississippi feel its impact?


(NEXSTAR) – El Niño has officially ended, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday, and its cooler counterpart could be just around the corner. La Niña conditions are predicted to take hold over the Pacific Ocean as soon as July, setting the stage to affect our weather here on land.

The Climate Prediction Center issued a La Niña watch Thursday. The group of national forecasters say there’s a 65% chance La Niña forms between July and September. Chances increase even more as we move later into the year.

Odds are La Niña will be with us as we move into peak hurricane season. La Niña years are associated with more hurricanes and more damaging storms in the Atlantic basin.

This year appears likely to follow that pattern. Experts are predicting a record-breaking “hyperactive” 2024 season of tropical storms and hurricanes.

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“The likelihood of a La Niña coupled with record warm sea surface temperatures is the reason the National Hurricane Center is forecasting an extraordinary hurricane season,” said Kathie Dello, North Carolina’s state climatologist. “States from Texas to Maine are making preparations for an active year.”

La Niña typically reaches its peak in the winter. That’s when it will likely have the strongest impact on weather patterns.

A La Niña winter usually means dry, warmer-than-average conditions across the southern half of the country. Past La Niña years have contributed to severe drought conditions in California and the Southwest.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley tend to get more precipitation, and northern states can see extra-cold weather.

Typical La Niña winter weather impacts are shown on a map created by NOAA. (Map: NOAA)

When we’re in a La Niña, water along the Pacific coast is also colder and more nutrient dense, according the National Ocean Service. That’s also good news for marine life, like salmon and squid, that live along the West Coast.

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Between now and whenever La Niña officially takes over, we’re in a situation described as “ENSO neutral,” meaning neither El Niño nor La Niña is in place. With or without La Niña in effect, national forecasters are expecting an abnormally hot summer for nearly all parts of the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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